Stellwagen Wreck Listed as “Historic Place”

The Edna G.’s trawl winch controlled its fishing net which was towed off the vessel's side. Courtesy Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary

The wreck of a mid-20th century fishing vessel, representative of a distinctive regional fishing technique, has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the nation’s official list of cultural resources worthy of preservation. The Edna G. shipwreck site rests within NOAA’s Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.

The Edna G. shortly after its launch in July 1956. Courtesy and with permission from Maine Maritime Museum.

The Edna G. was a 54-foot “Eastern rig” groundfishing trawler launched in 1956 by the Morehead City Shipbuilding Corporation of Morehead City, North Carolina. (Eastern rig trawlers feature a wheelhouse in the stern of the vessel, as opposed to the more modern Western rigs.) From her launch until 1974, the Edna G. fished off the North Carolina and Virginia coasts, and in 1974 new owners moved it to New England. The vessel sank on June 30, 1988, off Gloucester, Massachusetts, as her 2-man crew set out its trawl net. A strange noise alerted the crew to water rapidly filling Edna G.’s engine room. The fishermen were able to abandon ship and were picked up by another fishing vessel. The exact cause of the sinking was never determined.

“Edna G. was listed on the National Register of Historic Places due to its exceptional importance as a remarkably intact example of 20th century fishing technology,” said Craig MacDonald, superintendent of the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. “The shipwreck represents a rapidly disappearing watercraft variety emblematic of the region’s maritime traditions.”

National Marine Sanctuary Map

Scientists from NOAA and the University of Connecticut’s Northeast Underwater Research Technology and Education Center, or NURTEC, documented the shipwreck site in 2003 with a remotely operated vehicle. The fieldwork recorded the vessel’s features including its intact wooden hull, wheelhouse and trawl winch. This information allows the sanctuary to interpret the site as a tangible connection to New England’s fishing heritage, providing insights into vessel construction and gear development.)

NOAA and NURTEC scientists have collaboratively located and documented more than 3 dozen historic shipwrecks in the sanctuary using side-scan sonar and underwater robots. Edna G. is the sanctuary’s 5th shipwreck site to be included on the National Register, administered by the U. S. Department of the Interior’s National Park Service.

Edna G.’s location within Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary provides protection unavailable in other federal waters off Massachusetts. Sanctuary regulations prohibit moving, removing, or injuring, or any attempt to move any sanctuary historical resource, including artifacts and pieces from shipwrecks. Anyone violating this regulation is subject to civil penalties.

Do you have any other information on the Edna G?

Share your information in our comments box below.